Today's Old School Design takes a look at the NBA licensed products industry in the late 1980's. The NBA was in its heyday in 1987/88. Michael Jordan was taking professional sports and sports marketing to new heights. The NBA was loaded with popular stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwan, Clyde Drexler and Isiah Thomas. Today's article is going to take a look at some unbelievable NBA product designs that were featured in the 1987-88 season NBA Properties Official Merchandise Catalog.
This catalog is loaded with classic imagery and paints a great picture of what product design looked like back then. In this image (click on the images for larger views) you get a great look at some MacGregor Sand-Knit NBA replica uniforms. The best part of the image is the shorts. It is hard to remember when shorts were really shorts but this image gives us a great look at the style of the time. The sock styles are also period appropriate classics. The model in the Lakers uniform is wearing Magic Johnson's Converse weapon shoes and the model in the Pistons uniform is wearing Larry Bird's green Converse Weapons. He must have forgotten to change shoes for this shot!
Our next image takes a look at some classic caricature design t-shirts from Salem Screenprinters. These player themed shirts were huge back in that time period. The shirts evolved each year and Salem continued to put out these designs throughout the 1990's. This shot features Chuck "the Rifleman" Person, James Worthy, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan and Rockets' Twin Towers of Hakeem Olajuwan and Ralph Sampson. These designs were some of the most popular themes in the history of licensed products. These early versions are a great look at the early days of this t-shirt design style.
Everyone remembers how popular the Starter brand was back in the 1980's and 1990's. The Starter jacket could be seen everywhere and on everyone. The famous satin team jackets were a must for any sports fan. This image features some of the other outrageously designed product Starter was creating at the time. These looks are classic 1980's styles. The clothes were tight fitting and the shorts were length appropriate. The dye sublimated jerseys and sweatshirts were extremely popular items and were viewed as a major creative design innovation.
This final image pretty much sums up what was going on style-wise in 1987/88. The page is from a company called Chalk Line, who was a major manufacturer of licensed products at the time. There are many great things going on here. The classic satin jackets, the short shorts, the classic NBA tube socks and the barrel gym bag. We also get a good look at a classic 1980's hair style as well!
This NBA merchandise catalog is loaded with more great imagery that I will share in future columns. Looking at these images is like hopping in a time machine and traveling back to the glory days of NBA licensed products. The industry has changed greatly since then, but that era of product design will always have a special place in the hearts of those of us who were there to see it.